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World leaders make historic decision to shut down all coal power plants by 2035: 'The advanced economies of the world are committed to phasing out coal'

This news marks a hugely positive step in the fight to limit global heating.

This news marks a hugely positive step in the fight to limit global heating.

Photo Credit: iStock

Group of Seven countries have further demonstrated their commitment to a low-carbon future by announcing member nations will phase out "unabated" coal-fired power stations by 2035.

The G7, which is comprised of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and Italy — with the European Union also participating — made the agreement during talks in Italy at the end of April, as CNN reported

While the news that polluting dirty fuel for power generation is on the way out is encouraging, the agreement had a little wiggle room for the member nations. 

The "unabated" addition to the announcement means that coal could still be used as long as carbon pollution is not released into the atmosphere. Furthermore, countries can pick "a timeline consistent with keeping a limit of 1.5°C temperature (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) rise within reach, in line with countries' net-zero pathways."

The U.S. declined to comment to CNN on the agreement. However, the EPA recently announced new policies that will force existing coal-based power plants to shut down by 2032 if they don't capture at least 90% of their carbon pollution, which is relatively compatible with the "unabated" caveat. The U.S. coal industry is poised to carry on, but with restrictions that would make it a much less polluting energy source.

Since no agreement on controlling coal pollution had been made in the years prior, the G7 news still marks a hugely positive step in the fight to limit global heating.

According to Climate Analytics in a press release, Japan had previously not set a date for phasing out coal, so the agreement marks a significant breakthrough in that regard. Power magazine observed coal is still responsible for around 30% of Japan's energy mix. 

But Climate Analytics is still not convinced the announcement is enough to deliver vital climate benefits. 

"2035 is too late," said head of climate policy Jane Ellis. "Many of these countries have already publicly committed to phase out dates ahead of 2030, and only have a small amount of coal capacity anyway."

"It's notable that gas has not been mentioned. In the last decade, gas has been the largest source of the global increase in CO2 emissions, and many G7 governments are investing in new domestic gas facilities. This is absolutely the wrong direction to be heading in — both economically and for the climate."

Climate Analytics' own analysis into the 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit pollution limit target shows 2030 is the latest year that coal should be phased out, while gas needs to be out of the energy picture by 2035.

"The G7 need to be going faster into renewables, which are cost-effective, quick to roll out, and produce substantial economic benefits," Ellis added. 

In the United States, access to renewable energy is improving for homeowners, so they can more easily make changes that can reduce reliance on coal-fired power plants and cut utility bills. The Inflation Reduction Act, for example, offers tax incentives and discounts for those looking to make the change, while some states also have their own initiatives to increase take-up. 

But a worldwide commitment to renewable energy is essential to stop rising temperatures that are linked to prolonged extreme weather conditions and that put citizens at risk of heat-related illnesses

While the G7 commitment is welcome in that it shows climate decisions are at the forefront of the minds of some of the world's most powerful governments, more needs to be done to secure the future of our planet.

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